“That carrot was soooo good!” a Stearns Elementary School kindergartener enthused as he approached farmer Kent Simons, who had provided the fresh carrots from his half-acre farm a few blocks away.
“Would you like another one?” Simons asked.
The red-headed boy grinned. “Yes!”
Simons teamed with OSU Extension educator Patty Case on Thursday at Stearns Elementary to talk about carrots and field questions from students during the community’s fourth annual Countdown to Crunch event in honor of National Farm to School Month. This year, students throughout the Klamath County School District crunched carrots from his farm, Simple Gifts Farm. They were harvested with the tops on just last week.
Case, one of the event’s coordinators, helps manage Farm to School programs for area schools. “My favorite part was hearing the crunch of fresh carrots and the words of thanks from the students to the farmer,” she said.
Eleven county schools participated in Thursday’s Crunch countdown. Simons provided most of the nearly 3,500 carrots to the school district in support of this Farm to School event. In addition, all other county schools received fresh, local carrots from Belweather Farm to serve in their cafeterias.
“I think this is a win-win for everyone,” Simons said as he watched students crunch his carrots. “Kids get local, healthy food, and I get an opportunity to sell some of my produce to the school district.”
He spent the lunch hour answering questions and passing out carrot stickers to energetic students.
Simons grows and harvests more than 40 varieties of vegetables, melons, and berries on his half-acre plot. He had been talking with OSU Extension and the district’s Farm to School program about providing fresh vegetables for a couple of years. This year, the partnership was formed and he hopes it will continue.
Just a couple miles away, Ferguson Elementary students also crunched down on carrots from Simons’ farm. Students grinned as they held their greenery-topped carrots, and like their Stearns counterparts, counted down to the first crunch.
Jordan Rainwater, owner of Belweather Farm and the district’s Farm to School coordinator, helped hand out carrots and field their carrot-related questions.
“Seeing the greens still on the carrots provoked some really interesting questions from the kids about how carrots grow, and quite a few students even ventured to taste them,” she said. “This special event highlights the Farm to School efforts our school district is making through its procurement practices — celebrating fresh, local food and the farmers who grow it.”
As part of the annual event, Healthy Klamath, offered the community a chance to register online and join students in crunching on local produce. In past years, students and community members have crunched Oregon-grown apples and Klamath-grown spinach.